Continuing Tales

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 3 of 24

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The Way Back

Jareth materialized into his private chambers with the deeply slumbering Sarah in his arms and a properly embarrassed Hoggle in tow. Having no other room prepared, he carefully laid the woman into his own, admittedly over-large bed, pulling the rumpled sheets up and around her. Jareth realized it had been less than an hour since he had awakened from that dream. Had it been Sarah who screamed for him? He repressed a shudder and turned to the dwarf, needing answers, though not really expecting much.

"How did you find her? What happened?" Jareth bluntly demanded.

"I was just walking through the hedges..." the dwarf began uncertainly.

"In the middle of the night?" the King interjected.

Hoggle looked embarrassed again, "I, ah, couldn't sleep."

"Well, that makes two of us."

The dwarf continued after a long pause, followed by an impatient gesture from Jareth, "So, I was walkin'. It was real dark. The moon was behind some cloud, but I had me lamp so's I could see. I turned a corner and saw the little lady. She was lyin' in a big heap, like somebody dropped 'er there. I didn't think it was 'er right away. It didn't look like 'er...but it did. So I shined me lamp closer and she started movin'. I was almost sure it was the little lady, but when she looked at me...she didn't know me. I thought she was gonna scream, but she didn't make a sound. She ran into the dead end and when I came after her, she backed into the corner. The closer I got the more afraid she looked. So I left the lamp at the entrance and got you...your majesty."

As Jareth had anticipated, it was not much information. He sighed, not wanting to get anyone else involved. The fewer who knew the less information there would be to find its way to her. She could never find out about Sarah. He had been so careful, even reluctantly cutting off Sarah's connection to her three companions.

Jareth turned to the first of those companions, taking up his kingly demeanor, "You may go back to your home, Hoghead. I will call if you are needed." He saw the little dwarf begin to reply, but silenced him with a raised eyebrow. Hoggle shuffled quietly out.

The Goblin King made a chair appear beside the bed, sat tiredly and gazed steadily at the only person to ever defeat his game, to deny the Labyrinth the power of her dreams, for a long time after Hoggle left. Dreams, it had been dreams that got him in this situation in the first place so long ago. It had been dreams that caused him to He could not stop to relive the past. He needed to take care of Sarah, to find out what had happened to her.

She had curled into a tight ball, hugging one of his pillows like all those stuffed animals he remembered seeing in her room. Her face was a startling contrast from earlier, still too thin, but peaceful and serene. Her hair was still a mess and her hands were bleeding slightly from countless miniscule scratches, a result of her taking refuge in the hedge.

Jareth would need help. He summoned a pen and paper, scribbling a short note and sending it flying out the open window. He waited until they arrived, trying to decide how much to tell them.

He felt the current of magic coming towards the castle a few moments later. The Goblin King stood and walked to the edge of his balcony as the pair of golden finches flitted to the railing. The two birds twittered curiously and in a swirl of feathers and shimmering fabric they had transformed into a man and a woman. Jareth looked over his vassals, the oldest of any friends who would still have him. They were creatures of gold, bronze curls encircled the male's head and tumbled down the female's back, two pairs of identical amber eyes gazed steadily back, questioning. Protocol dictated he would be the first to speak. Whatever else he had forsaken, Jareth clung to his court's protocol, ruefully savoring the small silences it allowed him.

He finally answered their unspoken question, "No, there has not been a child wished away." Jareth spread his hands in a vaguely entreating gesture, something they had not been expecting, for he did it so rarely. The man's jaw dropped slightly, his sister's eyebrows raised slightly. Jareth continued in a calm but intense voice, "I called you here to request your services, not for the court, but for myself. I also ask for your silence. I do not know what she will do," he closed his eyes when he let that thread of fear escape.

The woman stepped forward, "Oh Jareth," she sighed, placing her hand on his arm, drawing it down to be clasped in her other hand, "who would we tell?"

Her brother smiled, flashing his often exposed ivory teeth, "Nadia's right as usual, my King. Who else do we talk to?"

"Do not lapse into your usual juvenile behavior yet, Aidan," she told him scathingly, turning a gentle eye back to Jareth, "What's wrong?"

Jareth decided he would not hide anything from them. If he could not trust the twins he could trust no one. They had been the first wished away, with him nearly from the beginning of his stewardship. He had raised them, having no desire to add to the parasitic hordes of goblins that had come with the damn castle. He had trained them, giving them skills that would make them useful, begging the Queen to grant them magic, long life, a purpose in his kingdom.

Aidan and Nadia took those wished away, for Jareth did not have the time and the rules of the Game dictated that Queen could seize no power from them. The twins raised the children and in turn gave them skills, some left for the other lands of the Underground, some stayed in the Labyrinth. There were so few summons anymore, it hardly mattered where they went or what became of them. But the twins cared, and relished their task. He was proud of his protégés, they were like his own children.

He said it as simply as he could, "Someone dropped Sarah into the Labyrinth. I need you to heal her and to try to find out what happened."

Aidan's jaw dropped again as Nadia whispered, clutching at Jareth's hand, "Sarah Williams?"

Jareth walked back into his chamber, feeling he did not need to answer. They followed him inside and he spoke softly of what had transpired, leaving out only his dream. "She did not even fight the crystal. I put her to sleep and brought her back here," he finished with another sigh. Nadia, now sitting in the chair next to the bed, looked tearfully down at her tightly clasped hands. Aidan had long since begun pacing.

The steward of the Labyrinth and his small court had never relished the Game itself, they respected the power of the Labyrinth and more often than not the wishers deserved their fate and the children received far better care. They knew Sarah had not truly wanted her idle wish, but she had said the words and rose to the challenge. There had never been a player like her, she journeyed through the Labyrinth with a child's innocence and bested Jareth with a woman's grace. She had caught him off guard and he came to respect her for her wit and determination, her blossoming beauty, her apparently endless compassion and kindness.

The power of Sarah's dreams had been extraordinary. The players were always powerful dreamers, for one had to have a certain belief to voice such a wish. Dreams, again. He would offer the player their dreams, and they would either take the crystal before the challenge or receive it when they lost, not knowing that to obtain a dream without achieving it left one unable to form new dreams. They would bask in the glow of their wish and wonder for the rest of their lives why the world no longer held as much spark, as much possibility.

The Labyrinth would take the power of the player's unwittingly forfeited dreams and channel it to the Queen. Jareth received nothing, wanted nothing from such an underhanded deception. He was needed to play the game and keep the Labyrinth in hand. It was a full time job and she deigned to be occupied with her fawning sham of a court and every new "toy" that she somehow acquired. It took power and control, things Jareth possessed in abundance, as well as no where else to go. He had been in the wrong circumstances at the wrong time, and the Queen had been fortunate to acquire him.

In Sarah's case, Jareth had been caught. He needed to gain the power his Queen demanded from every run of the Labyrinth, but he futilely wanted to avoid ruining Sarah. There would have been grave retribution if she discovered that they had acquired no power. The twins had watched all of this silently, understanding his pain and his final decision to finish the game.

He had not known whether to be angry or relieved that Sarah had not lost her dreams. He ultimately sent the Labyrinth a portion of his own power, channeling it to the Queen so that she would never know Sarah had escaped.

Ten years later, Jareth was shaken out of his reverie by Nadia pushing him out of his own bed chamber. "Jareth, I know how you like to brood, but I must examine Sarah. And I think that, in light of the circumstances, she would want as little of an audience as possible." He nodded curtly and joined Aidan who had begun pacing again in the hallway. The Goblin King leaned tiredly against his castle wall. He closed his mismatched eyes, wishing he could have kept in contact with Sarah.

He felt the ripples of Nadia's magic emanating from his rooms. She had begun the physical healing process, it would not be long and Aidan could exercise his specialty, the secrets of the mind.

The Way Back

A Labyrinth Story
by atsuibelulah

Part 3 of 24

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